Boundaries 101

When we are tolerating behavior we don't like, it can be because there is a boundary problem. More often it is because we are hooking our feelings on other people's behavior. For example, it is not a boundary to say, "No, I don't want to go out tonight." That's just saying what YOU are going to do. Saying "no" when someone asks you to do something is not a boundary. When we say "yes" to things we don't want to do, it is not poor boundaries, it is lying. It is not a boundary to say, "I feel terrible because you don't do any work around the house." That is a guilt trip. An emotional boundary is like a property boundary. It involves a boundary violation - someone coming into your space. For exa

Five concrete tips for helping someone you love overcome abuse

It is its own painful process to watch someone you care about experience and submit to abusive and controlling behavior. Sometimes, we have higher standards for what we want someone we love to tolerate than we have for what we are willing to tolerate for ourselves. I remember one time, sitting around a table with some friends from law school, and a woman at the table was talking about buying a plane ticket to visit her boyfriend in another state. Two of the men at the table freaked out and were telling her that it was unacceptable for her to pay for the full ticket. One of the guys was constantly telling women they were stupid, and the other was constantly cheating on his girlfriends, so it

Why he has power over you (it's not what you think)

When we are living in fear of abuse, when we are controlled and threatened by someone else, we usually think it is happening because of these things: He is bigger than you. He is richer than you. I'm not going to argue with you about those factors. You may have a lot of great evidence that someone in your life is bigger and richer than you. That may even be true. But, that is not why he has power over you. It's not even because he's great at sex (assuming he is). If he's not, or he's your gross boss, sorry for bringing it up. Those may all be reasons you want to keep an abusive person in your life, and if you are satisfied with those reasons, I won't argue that either. The real reason he has

Is he an angel or a demon?

I was talking with a client the other day and she told me that she couldn't decide whether her ex-boyfriend was a hero who had saved her life or a demon who had ruined it. Her brain was going back and forth between the evidence that he was perfection on earth or the worst thing that ever happened to her. She had plenty of evidence of both. Here is what was neutral: he paid rent. He hit her. Her thoughts about that created an extreme pendulum swing back and forth between whether her boyfriend was God or Satan. And she's not alone. All of us fall into the trap of believing that if a positive thought about our relationship is wrong, the most negative thought MUST be true. If her boyfriend hit h

How to leave and still be happy

One of the bravest things I have ever seen someone do is leave. Leave a job that was "right." Leave a marriage that was "perfect." Leave a school their parents told them was the key to "success." What lets you know it's time to leave? Here's one answer: when you want to leave. You can love a job, love a relationship, love a school, and still leave - just because you want to leave. Do you want people to stay with you out of sacrifice? Most of us don't want a pity friend, but we are willing to insult the people around us by pitying them. We think if we stay in a situation out of pity, the other person will feel good. But, here's the thing: what we do does not control their feelings. Their thou

How to be happy and stay exactly where you are

I want you to know that wherever you are, whatever you've chosen for your life, and whatever has happened that you haven't chosen, you are in the exact right place to learn happiness. You may want to tell me that I don't know your circumstance, that I don't know how frustrating your partner is or how mean your co-workers are. You may want to tell me that I don't know you, and how you've experienced this all your life - that you don't know what's wrong with you, but there must be something. Listen to me: there is nothing wrong with you, and you have everything you need to experience happiness. Here's the key: life is not happening to you, it is happening for you. Whatever you cannot change in

How to know if you are in an abusive relationship.

Good question! What do you need to do to find out if your relationship is abusive or controlling? Do you ask your mom or your friends? Do you consult a guru or ask your pastor? All you can get through those questions is someone else's definition of abuse (or their guess of what you want to hear). How do YOU define abuse? Here are some guidelines to use when you're considering this question. Merriam-Webster's Dictionary defines "abuse" as "improper or excessive use or treatment: misuse." Merriam-Webster's Dictionary defines "control" as "to exercise restraining or directing influence over; to have power over : rule." What is improper or excessive? Who gets to exercise influence and power over

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